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USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Press Release

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California Voters Stand by President Obama Despite Rising Gasoline Prices

State electorate unenthused by Republican presidential candidates.

Media Contacts:
Suzanne Wu at (213) 740-0252 or
Michelle Salzman at (213) 821-9311 or

A phone conference discussing the results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of California politics, including public employee pensions, is MONDAY, March 26 at 11:15 a.m. PT. Domestic call-in number: (800) 398-9389. International: +01 (612) 332-0345. To reserve a line, contact Suzanne Wu at

LOS ANGELES – March 24, 2012 – President Barack Obama's job performance rating is the highest among California voters since spring 2010, riding a wave of voter favorability on issues relating to the economy, according to the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll. The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is the largest poll of registered voters in California.

Overall, 57 percent of California voters approve of the job being done by President Obama, up seven points among Californians since the previous USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted in November 2011. Thirty-eight percent of voters said they disapprove of the president’s job performance.

When polled on specific issues, voters in the state favorably rated the president's approach to many economic issues, including jobs (53-43 percent), the economy (51-47 percent) and taxes (50-45 percent).

A further breakdown shows that favorability ratings for the president’s performance on jobs was 58-39 percent for Latino voters, and 51-45 percent for White voters. When it comes to the economy, Latino voters approved 53-46 percent and White voters were split with 48 percent disapproving and 50 percent approving. On taxes Latino voters approve of the president’s performance 49-44 percent; White voters disapprove by a narrow margin with 47 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.

"Barack Obama carried this state by a wide margin four years ago, and this poll suggests he's in a strong position to carry California again this November," said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "Voters here are beginning to feel better about the state's economic future and that optimism is working toward the president's benefit."

Voters also approved of the president’s approach to women’s health. Of the voters who give President Obama positive marks on women's health, 71 percent are registered Democrats, 28 percent are registered Republicans and 59 percent decline to state their party registration. Altogether, 26 percent of voters strongly approved of his performance and 29 percent approved somewhat.

On health care in general, 52 percent of voters approved of the job President Obama is doing, and 44 disapproved. Altogether, 27 percent of California voters strongly approved of the president's performance on health care and 25 percent approved somewhat.

On other issues, Californians were not as impressed with the president's performance. Fifty-three percent of voters disapproved of his handling of the federal deficit and 46 percent of voters disapproved of his performance on immigration issues.

President Obama's performance was rated the lowest among California voters when it comes to the issue of gasoline prices. Sixty-two percent of voters rated his performance unfavorably, with 47 percent of Latino voters and 43 percent of White voters saying they "strongly disapprove" of the president's handling of the current situation with the high price of gas.

"Gasoline prices would probably have to hit twenty dollars a gallon to put Obama in serious trouble here in California," Schnur said. "But if voters in a deep-blue state like this one are that unhappy with the way he's handling this issue, it should be a big warning to what his campaign is going to have to deal with in Ohio or Florida."

Overall, 62 percent of Californians said they feel favorable toward the president. Along party lines, President Obama was rated favorably by 91 percent of self-identified Democrats, 55 percent of self-identified independents and 20 percent of self-identified Republicans.


Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney holds a solid lead among registered Republican voters in California.

When asked who they would vote for if an election for president was held today, 42 percent of California Republicans said they would select Romney. Following by a margin of 19 points, 23 percent of Republicans in the state selected Rick Santorum; 12 percent selected Newt Gingrich; and 10 percent selected Ron Paul.

However, Romney is having a hard time rallying the conservative Republican base in the Golden State.
"While Romney maintains a lead over Rick Santorum, he's not making inroads into the demographic voting groups that have carried Santorum in other states," Schnur said.

"Romney is winning the state by a large margin because the Republicans who tend to support him – suburban, upscale, more moderate Republican voters – are more populous than in the Midwest or the South,” Schnur said. “The types of voters who tend to support Rick Santorum – working class voters and religious conservatives – are not shifting to Romney in California. There just aren't many of them here."

Overall, Republican voters in California have lukewarm feelings for the candidates who could win their party's nomination.

Registered Republicans in California were asked if they were satisfied with their candidate choices for the Republican presidential nomination or if they would prefer other options. Forty-six percent of those polled said they were satisfied; 50 percent said they would prefer other options.

When Californians were queried whether they would vote for Obama or Romney in a hypothetical match-up, Obama led with 57 percent support compared to 36 percent support for Romney. In similar theoretical match-ups, Obama led Gingrich 62-30, Santorum 61-31 and Ron Paul 59-31.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted March 14-19, 2012, and surveyed 1,500 registered voters in California. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 2.9 percentage points.

For more results and methodology of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, click here.

FOR MEDIA: These results from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and additional findings on California ballot initiatives, taxes and Governor Jerry Brown's approval ratings will be discussed in a phone conference on MONDAY, March 26 at 11:15 a.m. PT, with representatives from the University of Southern California and polling firms Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and American Viewpoint.

Call-in numbers:

United States: (800) 398-9389
International: +01 (612) 332-0345 

WEB SITE: /poll
TWITTER: @usclatpoll

About the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California, designed to survey voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues.

Conducted at regular intervals throughout the year, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is one of the largest polls of registered voters in the state and has been widely cited, helping to inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.

About USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC's 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

About the Los Angeles Times:
The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.